Things to Do

I am always thinking about things to do until I eventually do them and start thinking about other things to do. Before, I would think about things to do in whatever city I was in and I would make lists and cross things off. I would spend hours commuting on the bus thinking about things to do before I was twenty-five, before I was thirty, before I was some arbitrary age where I felt I had to cross some invisible finish line in order to feel accomplished. 

I would daydream in lectures, thinking about things to do in summer, things to do at Christmas, things to do in whatever season I was in. I would think about things I had to do today, and tomorrow, and for the rest of the week. When the priest was giving his homily, I was sitting in the pew thinking about things to do on the weekend and things to do before I was dead. 

Thinking about things to do made me feel like I was not flailing or floating or otherwise failing. I thought planning out a list – even just in my head – gave me purpose, setting me on a straight little path that would lead me somewhere better and warmer, somewhere more interesting and more comfortable, somewhere that wasn’t so cramped or so empty. I spent my days with hands outstretched, always turning my face towards the sun and still believing somebody else had more light.  

The thing is, doing things is very often useless and doesn’t change the world and maybe doesn’t even change you. Certainly, we should do things and keep doing things, even on our own authority, if that’s what we want to do. But all these things and all this doing make for a very busy, very cluttered life. If I stay in bed all day and don’t complete my self-assigned list of things to do, it doesn’t matter and nobody cares. This is not a pessimistic attitude nor is it some form of existentialism: it’s a relief. Something wondrous happens when you realize you don’t have to do anything: you actually start living. 

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